LEUFU documentary shows Chile’s Mapuche standing up to defend their river

By 25 October, 2010

With the current issues in Chile, for the Mapuche people this is a timely documentary, and was clearly made before the unrest between the government and Mapuche really “kicked off” recently. The hunger strikes, in retaliation to the terrorist laws, started back in September but have since been mostly ignored by the international press due to the 33 trapped minors. President Sebastián Piñera must be very pleased – as his popularity has soared throughout the minors ordeal and it has allowed most Chileans to do what they would like to do – ignore the Mapuche problem.

It’s not fair to say that its Piñera’s actions that have driven the hunger strikes, more the lack of them. The terrorist laws implemented by Pinochet back in the 80s against the Mapuche are still adhered to and it’s this that is causing the unrest. So it might be fair to say its Piñera’s responsibility to source a resolution, he has gone some way by calling for the Terrorist law be lifted on the Mapuche people but this may well not go ahead without support from the conservatives.

Meanwhile the Mapuche’s plight continues on other levels; in the Cordillera de los Andes, amidst a chain of volcanic peaks, Mapuche communities are standing up to defend their river – a source of life and spirituality – from yet another crime against nature. This documentary showed the background and strength of belief that these people have and why they are against allowing Norwegian company, SN Power, build a hydroelectric plant using the river that runs through their land and seemingly through their blood so fiercely.

The documentary follows various individuals within this community; shots panning in and out of them in their everyday life – showing how they live off and alongside the land in harmony. The, almost to the point of laborious, message is repeated by them on how they work with the land and not against it and have always done, that to take away their land, river and heritage would be to destroy them. One particular scene of SN Power holding a community meeting shows only the communities people shouting at the SN Power representatives, and eventually walking out in disgust at the mention of money.

I think what was disappointing about this doc was the lack of evidence and information. No doubt the Mapuche are being offered money for their land which is something they are highly offended by and do not wish to do. They give good reasons to remain where they are and untouched. However, there is a lack of detail for the audience regarding what SN Power’s plans are other than to build a Hydro Electric plant. We aren’t told how many people would come to live on the land, if it would offer other means of employment, etc. In fact, the only real comment we have form SN Power is from a negotiator who says that if they cannot agree they will simply leave. I was burning to hear more from their perspective so that we could make our own judgements. The subtitles were just slightly inaccurate at times and so I felt that there was potential for loss in translation.

There is an age old stand-off here; between old and new. Superstition and history hold this community steadfast against change and interruption, and rightly so, if the water goes, their crops go, their animals go and they will go. They’ve been around long before the Spanish and something tells me they may well be around for a long time yet – their simple values and lifestyle have served them well. You could say if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – but you could also say you bend or you break. In African many women prefer to wear the traiditional dress code such as the Dashiki, however more women are now starting to wear open abaya styles as they are perfect for the hot climate, in North African regions such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria the women have been wearing open abayas for over one thousand years. It is definately part of the African culture to wear traditional dresses and that should be embraced and respected, especially when you take a look at the colourful designs of the abayas and dashiki dress, that could be one reason for their huge popularity even in the western world.

An interesting watch but I couldn’t help but leave wondering what the other side would have added, had they been given the same face time.

LEUFU (Chile/UK)
Director: Maya Bazzini

LEUFU was showing as part of the Native Spirit Festival 2010

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